Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Musical Upbringing - Part 1

Everything we know is because someone taught that to us. One of the greatest joys of my life is to listen to music. This listening is a skill that has been nurtured. I was blessed to have people around me who taught me, directly and indirectly, how to listen to music, and how to notice, feel, appreciate and realize. I want to recount some incidences that I think contributed to quantum jumps in my listening abilities.

Almost all of this can be traced back to my father. Literature and music were core to his personality. He himself had a melodious voice, but never had any training. He used to sing, but rarely. I wish he had sung more often and it was all recorded. I have been told that my paternal grandfather was a good singer too.

When he came to Mumbai for work, my father stayed with his cousins in an iconic Dadar building called “Vasant Bhuvan”. While living there, he had many opportunities to meet the genius music director Vasant Prabhu, who used to live in a nearby building. My father was even fortunate enough to hear Vasant Prabhu's composition sessions. One of my father’s cousins, Baal Chavare, who considers Vasant Prabhu as his guru, also later became an established music director for movies and radio. My father and everyone from his friend circle there worshiped Vasant Prabhu’s musical creativity.

I remember one of my father’s friend, once dissing Naushad’s songs in comparison as “जात्यावर दळण दळताना म्हणायची गाणी”, a phrase hard to translate. Literally it means songs sung by housewives to keep themselves entertained when they do repetitive chores, repetitive being the operative word. Figuratively, it was a criticism of “लय” (tempo and /rhythm) or lack thereof in Naushad’s songs. My father was a fan of Naushad too, and so am I. One of the songs being criticized was none other than “मन तरपत हरी दर्शन को आज”. I was taken aback.

This incident made me listen to Vasant Prabhu’s songs more attentively. All his songs were recorded before I was born. The more I listened, the more I understood what a master he was of “लय”. Today, I consider Vasant Prabhu as perhaps the best music director ever for मराठी सुगम संगीत (light Marathi songs). Very pleasing melody, perfectly timed phrases and exemplary tempo. He is peerless in Marathi music. In Hindi, I prefer C. Ramchandra over others for similar reasons.

At home we had a vinyl disc record of two songs composed by Vasant Prabhu. On one side was “जन  पळभर म्हणतील हाय हाय”, and on the other side was “मधु मागशी माझ्या सख्या परि”. Both deeply meaningful poems written by भा. रा. तांबे. Both the songs were my father’s favorite, and now mine too. I even remember him explaining the meaning to me. Anyone who grows up listening to these poems, these songs and discussions about them is bound to grow up loving poetry and music.

It’s a shame, and a tragedy, that Vasant Prabhu is not so well known outside Maharashtra. His songs are pure 24 carat gold. I keep going back to them to understand, analyze and learn from them. Every time I hear these songs, I keep saying, “This, THIS, is how music should be composed”.

To those, who may not have heard his songs, here are a couple of songs to illustrate his mastery on all aspects of music direction. Pay special attention to timing, pauses and overall tempo aspects.

The first is from a movie “शिकलेली बायको”, and was a superhit. A song from the same movie “प्रेमा काय देऊ तुला” is mentioned by Lata as one her favorite songs.

The next is a poem by poet नारायण मुरलिधर गुप्‍ते who wrote with pen name कवि ’बी’. It’s a difficult poem to understand and extremely difficult to compose a tune for. Vasant Prabhu created a fantastic song out of it, that’s catchy and can be hummed by anyone. It’s one of his most well known songs

I still like Naushad’s songs. Nothing changed there. But because of people around me who understood many aspects of music, not only did I develop a special appreciation for Vasant Prabhu's songs, but I can also now better appreciate the “लय” or tempo/rhythm aspect of music.


  1. Thanks. Nani wrote about him on RMIM.

  2. I think father's have such an immeasureable impact our lives. Agreed, we learn a lot from our surroundings. Your father's memories live through you and can be shred with kids. That is huge in my eyes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with all of us


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